Saturday, September 30, 2006

Crunch Time

Sorry for the delay on what is I'm sure a highly anticipated breakdown of last night's game - it won't happen again!

I'll start by saying that while I was pleased with the overall outcome last night, there were many elements that will need improving before I can safely predict a playoff run for the home team. For some reason the Caps came out buzzing early but tapered off by the end of the first period and seemed unsure who their teammates were at times. (Is it really that hard? Black jersey...white and ugly orange, they look the same to me too.)

Individually, there were some good performances to speak of - Kris Beech was all over the place, hitting people and getting some good shots on goal, capping it off with the game-winner late in the third period. Ovechkin and Semin, although held pointless on the night, both had some moves out there that made the crowd gasp in unison. The penalty killing was, surprisingly, sharp and effective, at one point killing off a 2 minute 5-on-3 at the end of the second period. Brent Johnson stood on his head to get a well-deserved shutout.

I have to admit I was hoping to see Olie in net, so when I heard Johnny was starting I was a little unsure, especially given his 4-goal performance against the Pens just last weekend. That was a different game of course - earlier in the preseason, weaker penalty-killing and defense overall, and basically a sloppy game for both teams. Still, I wasn't sure which Johnson would show up - the one who went winless in his first string of starts last year, or the one who finished out the year turning aside shot totals numbering in the 40s. Turns out it was the latter, and he even threw in some dazzling saves to wow the spectators. My only criticism - he really needs to not wander around the net to get the puck because it scares the bejeezus out of me.

And so kids, it's good news/bad news time:

Good News
As mentioned above, there were many individually good performances last night. I'll give an honorable mention to Alexandre Giroux, who put together a strong performance in his own right. I'm officially completely clueless as to who should make the team at this point.
Bad News
The team game went AWOL after the first period. Also, with Pettinger, Bradley and Zubrus all sitting out Saturday's matinee with "minor injuries", we all get to remain in suspense for a little bit longer. I'm just glad I don't have to make the decisions...

Good News

Penalty killing over the last two games has been operating at a highly efficient rate, allowing only 1 goal on 19 chances. Of course, it's hard to tell whether this is due to effective work by the PKers or just a crappy Flyers power play. I guess we'll know one way or the other on Saturday.
Bad News
Why is it when one set of special teams is clicking, the other one pretty much bites it? The Caps had 3 power play goals against the Pens last Friday but also allowed 2...last night they killed off all 9 but were scoreless in 8 chances of their own with the extra man and seemed unable to even get into the offensive zone. A little consistency, that's all I ask - if you're going to suck, be committed to your suckiness across the board!

Good News
The defense along with Johnson held the Flyers to 26 shots and kept them scoreless.
Bad News
The Caps had 33 shots and registered only one goal in the waning minutes of the third period.

Good News
Ovechkin did not get into a fight.
Bad News
No one got into a fight.

Good News
The organization's goal to spread out scoring throughout the team has been achieved so far in the preseason, with 18 players registering at least a point through 5 games and four players with 3 or more points in that same time period.
Bad News
My boy Zednik continues to be virtually invisible both on the scoresheet and the ice, and Ovechkin has yet to register a single point (he does have a 5-minute sit in the sin bin, though).

Good News
Attendance at preseason games continues to be higher than usual, with close to 11,000 hockey fans watching the Caps on a Friday night.
Bad News
As usual, too many of those 11,000 fans were Flyers fans - there were several in my section, including this group of bratty kids sitting a few rows behind us. I know what you're thinking...obnoxious Flyers fans?? Inconceivable! But I kid you not. By the end of the first period we had a new mantra courtesy of my roommate - "It's wrong to beat up small children. It's wrong to beat up small children."

And with that, I leave you with an assortment of Caps' goodies, news and notes:

Our first good review!
Defensive Profile-O-Rama #1
Defensive Profile-O-Rama #2
Capitals Buying Time

A sad, semi-Caps related note - former Capitals' captain Steve Konowalchuk has announced his retirement from the NHL due to a heart condition. Kono was always one of my favorite players during his tenure in DC and I rooted for him as he continued on to Colorado. He is a classy guy and an all-around great hockey player - I wish him good luck in all his future endeavors, whether in the NHL or in the real world. We miss you, Kono!!

A nice farewell to Kono care of Mike Vogel and (check out Vogel's blog for another nice tribute). The fact that he retired as a member of another team yet is featured on the home page shows just how much he meant to the Capitals organization.

I wonder what the response will be when Bondra finally hangs up his skates... :)


Friday, September 29, 2006

Gameday Preview Cop-Out

I will not be presenting my award-winning and crowd-pleasing gameday preview today. It's not because I'm too busy or too lazy (although both are somewhat true) - it's because we just played the Flyers on Tuesday and as a casual observer I have nothing more to add about tonight's game.

Okay, the venue has changed. And two fewer players will be on the roster. And tonight marks what is likely the last test for Giroux, Klepis, Beech and Fata. And Zubrus is making his preseason debut. All things that have been mentioned before (except the change in venue - that's a DCCheapSeats exclusive!! Woo hoo!)

So instead I will send you to people that have much more expertise on the subject - I give you the great Mike Vogel, the always cheery Dave Fay, and the requisite Philly article:
Giroux/Clymer Profiles
Washington Times
C'mon, Esche Isn't That Bad!

I'll be at the game tonight and I hope to return tomorrow with a thorough review of the game, words of praise and high hopes after a blowout Caps''s time to make the entire city of Philadelphia hate DC even more (HAHAHA - GO NATS!)


Thursday, September 28, 2006

And Then There Were 25

- The Washington Post reports that the second-to-last cuts have been made, and it should come as no surprise that Fleischmann and Schultz are on the train back to Hershey. Both are talented and young, so I expect we'll see them back at camp next year. Congrats to Beech, Klepis, Giroux and Fata for sticking it out this far. Of those four, I'd like to see Beech and Klepis on the opening night roster - mostly based on my one preseason game, the day at training camp, and the various articles, so take it with a grain of salt.

Not that I don't love Rrrrrico, because I do - he can fly, and he has a fun name - but that's about it. He reminds me of that kid in the Mighty Ducks 2 (a classic!) that could skate really fast but couldn't stop and would go crashing into the boards...everyone remember the stacks of soda cans on the ice? Anyone? No? Never mind...

As for Giroux, I really don't know much about him - it seems he's impressing people, especially in the last few games, but I'll need to see more before I make up my mind. Apparently Hanlon is putting him out there with Ovie and Zubie tomorrow, and if that's not the ultimate test I don't know what is. Let's just say if he can keep up with those two, he deserves another look.

- Some wonderful soul has posted video of the Ovie-Richards fight on Google - yay! I've watched it a few times in a row, and to be honest Alex didn't look half bad. He (mostly) stays on his feet and gets some pretty good punches in before taking a bit of a beating towards the end. The commentator annoys me because he is clearly from Philly and he makes it sound much worse than it looks, but I was very proud of Ovie.

Now I never want to see that again.


Ovie on the Mound, Jamie at Bat, and Ben on the Radio

- Ovechkin's foray into major league baseball went smoothly earlier this evening as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch - some of his teammates were even there to support (or mock) him. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the video on the Caps' website. There's some good footage of Jamie Heward hitting a home run in batting practice and running the bases, too. All in all it was just gosh-darn adorable - I wanted to scoop them all up and squeeze their little faces, they're just so cute.

Sorry, couldn't resist getting all girly-girl - now where's my damn pink jersey...

Anyways, it's nice to see Ted and the Lerner family working together to promote both teams, and equally nice to see the local media actually covering it. Next up, Brian Schneider in goal...

- I just finished listening to the Caps Report (just convincing everyone once and for all that no, I have no life after hockey season starts). Mike and Corey spoke with assistant coach and defensive guru Jay Leach about the progress of the blue line corps and touched on penalty-killing issues. No great epiphanies, but it sounds like the coaching staff is very confident and pleased with the progress of all the young'uns, and they discussed how efficient and effective the PK was against Philly last night. Leach thinks if we can keep the penalties below 6 a game we'll be fine...hey, stranger things have happened.

- Speaking of the d-men, Ben Clymer was on for the second half of the report - they covered a lot and I can't really go into all of it here, but I highly recommend listening to it on your own. Once the technical difficulties were sorted out, it was a really interesting interview. The part where they discuss Ovie's fight was particularly entertaining, especially when they get to what Hatcher said to Clymer...I can't do it justice, you'll just have to listen.

Among other things, Ben seems to be getting more comfortable on the back line, although he did mention that he still has to fight the urge to jump into the offensive rush. He also mentioned he was glad he didn't have to stop Ovie in a real-life game because it was hard enough in practice. Please note that I looooove Clymer and I know he'll be great on D, but I think I can speak for all Caps fans when I say - Ben, we're glad too. :)

It's amazing, though, every time I hear Clymer talk I can totally picture him as a coach someday. Just the way he describes team strategies and his own play as it relates to others on the ice - it goes so far beyond your textbook answer from an athlete, the "we have to stick together and play as a team" or "just go out there and give it 110%" type responses. He gets it. I would love to see him behind the bench once his playing days are over...after a long and successful career in DC...with several Stanley Cup rings to keep his first one company...

*Sigh*...a girl can dream, right?


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

When in Rome...

So I was reflecting on the game last night and I was struck by how much I wished I had seen the Ovie-Richards fight. Not because it was a great battle for the ages, because I'm 99.9% sure it wasn't. No, this was nothing more than good old-fashioned bloodlust. We all have it - you can claim you hate fighting, that it's ruining hockey, that it's know you're standing up along with the rest of us when two warriors go at it, cheering on your home-team competitor.

The ancient Roman in me led me to that old standby, YouTube. At first I thought that some enterprising person would have gotten the Ovie scrap uploaded, but alas it was not to be. (Although if you want a laugh, check out Japers' Rink - there's an old video of Ovie and Tverdovsky duking it out back in Russia, courtesy of YouTube...) What I did find was one of the craziest fight sequences in recent years - the March 2004 brawl between the Ottawa Senators and the Philadelphia Flyers. I'm sure everyone remembers it well, but it's definitely worth revisiting, especially since it's not likely to happen again anytime soon.

I'm not as technologically advanced as others, so I am posting the links for you to watch at your leisure:
Round One
Still Going...
Yup, Still More

Some things to look for:
- a future Capital attacking another future Capital
- play "Where's Brashear?" - the guy pops up everywhere! (Don't read his lips if you're under 18)
- goalie fight...just always funny
- in the second clip, listen carefully to the PA announcer as he's reading the penalties - made me laugh
- watch Sean Burke's reaction once he's in net and fights break out again

Of course, any discussion of fighting on my blog would have to end on a Caps-related note, so here it is: November 21, 1998


Caps Ground Flyers, 6-1

Last night made me happy. Not because it was the best game ever played by a Caps team - I'm sure it was far from it. And had I seen any of it (thanks, B2 networks!) I doubt I would have thought otherwise. What I like about the results of tonight's game can be boiled down to a few simple things:

- The Caps won in Philadelphia in front of 17,993 pissed off Philly fans. In case you're curious, the last time the Caps won in the city of brotherly love was January 31, 1998.
Now, technically the Flyers are still undefeated at home against the Caps because this was a preseason win. I choose to ignore that technicality.

- The power play converted on 3 of 10 opportunities, and 10 of 11 penalties were killed with a bonus shorthanded goal - so I was a little off on my 100%, but not by much. Yet another game basically decided by special teams, and for once the Caps came out on top.

- The Caps' blue line had 7 points in the lopsided contest, and Ovechkin's lone appearance on the score sheet was a 5-minute fighting major. Cue 'Twilight Zone' music here. (By the way, Ovie apparently got his butt kicked...and was grinning about it afterwards. I love this kid!)

All in all, good stuff from the boys in white tonight. I'd like to see them carry it into Friday's rematch back at the Phone Booth, especially since I'll be there. :)

- Meanwhile, Profile-o-Rama continues with our latest standout performer, Jakub Klepis. Jakie is apparently now competing with Beech and Giroux for the final center spot. I really love this competition - I had my doubts about our depth at center, as did many others, but I've been really impressed with what I've seen and heard so far. There may not be a Forsberg in that bunch, but there are definitely capable centers in the system.

- Anyone in the DC-area should be sure to check out the Nats-Phillies game tomorrow night, where as I'm sure you all know Ovie will be throwing the first pitch. Let's just hope his fastball is better than his right hook...or his golf swing...


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gameday Preview (Preseason Edition - Take 3)

Who: Your Nation’s Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Where: Wachovia Center
3601 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19148
When: Tuesday, September 26, 7:00 PM

Media Notes:
Not game-related (and a little old) but check out this
Ovechkin Profile from the Sporting News (Watch out for that orange - it'll burn your retinas right off...)
Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Daily News

Broadcast Information: Radio feeds on both sites as well as, drum roll please............streaming video, baby!

2005-2006 Season Series: Washington 1-3-0-0, Philadelphia 3-0-0-1

Last Game: 2/10 at Philadelphia, Caps lost 5-4
- This game featured two injury-depleted lineups, combining for a total of 10 regulars out with various bumps and bruises
- In the second period, the Caps allowed 3 power play goals in a span of just under 8 minutes (so nothing new there) and fell behind 5-2, only to claw back within one on 2 power play goals of their own
- Then-Flyer Donald Brashear got into a fight with Doug Doull early in the first period; he would later score an unassisted goal, only his second of the year, against backup Brent Johnson.
- Classic quote from Big Donnie about the goal: "It's a move I practice a lot," Brashear said of the fake. "I see good players do it. I just shot it."

Great Moments in Caps History:
In the 1988 Patrick Division Semifinals against the Flyers, the Capitals came from being down 3-1 in the series to force game 7 on home ice. The Caps would then force overtime, tying the score at 4-4 after trailing 3-0. In the extra frame, Dale Hunter got the puck on a breakaway and shot it five-hole past Ron Hextall to win the game and the series. The Caps would go on to lose the division finals in 7 games to the New Jersey Devils, but the defeat of the hated Flyers would become legend among Caps fans and remains one of the favorite video clips shown at home games almost 20 years later.

Things to watch for:
- Hanlon will continue to tinker with the lines up until opening night, so we'll consider this the ongoing "What to Watch" over the next week
- Bubble boys - Klepis, Fleischmann, Gordon, Beech, Green...Hanlon has made it clear that the last four cuts will likely be made following tonight's game, so I hope to see a lot of desperation and a good game from all of the above to make the decision that much harder
- The return of Ovie (?) and Heward tonight hopefully means more offensive production and better defense than the last few games...
- Every preseason game so far has essentially been decided by special teams, which is the main reason why the Caps are 1-1-1 instead of 3-0. I can feel it, though - we're going to be 100% on the penalty kill tonight! (Denial - not just a river in Egypt...)

Possible Lineups:
Okay, until they start publishing media notes for preseason games, you're going to have to mix and match your own lines for tonight's game.

Here's who is left:

Center - Zubrus, Sutherby, Laich, Beech, Klepis, Fata, Gordon...and the pivot rollercoaster continues...
Wingers - Ovechkin, Semin, Pettinger, Brashear, Fleischmann, Clark, Zednik, Bradley
Defense - Pothier, Morrisonn, Eminger, Clymer, Heward, Green, Muir, Erskine
Goalies - Kolzig, Johnson

No earthly idea. Unfortunately I don't have time to search for their training camp roster and research who has been cut so far. My prediction...yes, there will be some Flyers on the ice tonight.

That's why you read my gameday previews - it's the up to date information and attention to detail, right? :)


Monday, September 25, 2006

The Atlantic Division, By Any Other Name...

I was starting to prepare my gameday preview for tomorrow night's Caps-Flyers matchup and I found myself looking forward to this game that I wasn't going to get to watch and that wasn't going to matter. In fact, the last two preseason games were also highly-anticipated, and I know why - it was pure nostalgia, a reminder of my childhood when the Caps were part of one of the toughest and most entertaining divisions in hockey: the Patrick Division.

Ah, the Patrick Division - Caps, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers and Penguins...the 11-year span with that lineup set the foundation for some of our strongest rivalries, all of which last to this day. I will still glare at anyone wearing a Rangers jersey and get more pumped up for a showdown with the Penguins than with any other team in the NHL. All of this wonderful hatred and joyous loathing grew out of legendary battles between these teams (and their fans), in both regular season and playoff meetings. Remember the good old days when the first two rounds of the playoffs were between divisional rivals? Now that's how you build a rivalry.

Today those enemies of yesteryear are happily ensconced in the Atlantic Division. For them, nothing has changed, only now they see each other 8 times a year and see us only 4. Meanwhile, the Caps are forced to play against upstart expansion teams and a transplanted club from Hartford. Yay.

I mean no disrespect to our current division; after somewhat dubious beginnings, the Southeast Division has gone on to produce 2 Stanley Cup champs in the last 2 years, and all but one team has played in the finals in the last decade. It's not that I love these teams, either - I nurture a keen dislike of all things related to the Carolina Hurricanes just on principle (um, cheerleaders? Seriously?) and there's no love lost when it comes to Florida, Atlanta, and Tampa.

Yet there's something missing in these rivalries. I feel it every time I go to a game against a division rival - sure we hate Atlanta, but do we hate Atlanta? Do fist fights break out in the stands between Caps fans and Panthers fans? Of course not. It's because these rivalries are manufactured, pure outgrowths of geographic location and little else. It's because there hasn't been a playoff series between these teams yet. And yes, it's because these teams are in traditionally non-hockey areas - the hockey craziness just doesn't run that deep in the south, at least not yet. When a Thrashers fan sits in my section, 9 times out of 10 they sit there quietly and only cheer when their team scores. Now give me a drunken Rangers fan (because there is always a drunken Rangers fan somewhere, isn't there?) and it's like theater.

Sure, we may in time develop that same deep animosity towards our own division - it may already be starting with those lovable misfits down in Atlanta. And the first time that two Southeast Division teams meet in the playoffs, there will definitely be fireworks. Just look at last year's end of year marathon with the Hurricanes and you could tell something was starting to brew before it was cut off by, you know, the season ending and stuff.

Nothing stays the same and we must adapt and evolve with the world around us...but you'll excuse me if I reserve a little piece of my hatred for our old friends, the Patrick Division. With that, bring on the orange and black!


No News is Good News?

There is so little information about the Caps-Devils game last night, even for a preseason game...even links to the AP report from the home page. I guess that blowout crowd of just over 3,000 fans didn't contain any reporters. Special thanks to Dave Fay for providing us die-hards with the best recap so far:

- It's a good sign that Clark is back to his old feisty self after undergoing abdominal surgery in the offseason. His game is one that is so dependent on being physically 100%, and I was nervous about his recovery period after learning of his surgery. Good to know that Captain Clark is back in action.

- Best way to incite a riot in chocolateville - announce over the loudspeaker that your star player and franchise cornerstone is not playing due to injury. A reminder to all you crazy Caps fans, we continue to be told that it is a minor injury - please remain calm and keep things in perspective. It's just preseason (although you probably can't tell that from the frequency of my posts...)

- One thing I should point out - the 'bubble' players Fay mentions probably aren't really that much on the cusp, they just haven't been cut yet. I'd say this last look will be to determine who gets a shot later in the year as injuries start to occur, not to decide if they warrant a permanent roster spot. Giroux, Wiseman, even Schultz - these are not guys anybody expected to crack the lineup barring a major breakout performance in the preseason, at least not this year. The exception would probably be Klepis and Fleischmann, who really are making their presence felt and could be a factor as final cuts are made this week.

It's getting interesting, kids - stay tuned as we stagger through the final week of preseason! 11 days and counting...


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Caps Fall to Devils, 3-1

I try not to let the preseason get me too depressed - after all, on opening day everyone starts with the same record, right?

I'm therefore going to keep the rose-colored glasses on and not think about the fact that for the second time in two nights, the Caps allowed two power play goals and one shorthanded goal. I'm going to ignore the fact that the good guys were kept off the board until late in the third period. I'll turn the other cheek when I see that the Caps had 8 power play chances and converted on exactly none of them.

I do this because I am a Capitals fan, and denial is my way of life. I choose instead to focus on the positives - first of all, the Caps took only 5 penalties, a major improvement over the parade to the sin bin that was Friday night's game in Pittsburgh. Secondly, the Caps outshot the Devils 34-18, marking a clear improvement in the defense when playing 5-on-5...

...and that's all I have, really. Unfortunately because tonight's game was at a non-NHL arena, more detailed information like shift times, penalties, and +/- are for some reason not available. I am instead forced to piece together this wrap-up from the AP wire story on the game and what little information I was able to gather while listening to the 3rd period. (I could go back and listen to the whole game, but it is preseason and even I have Steve Kolbe's play-by-play gives me a nervous twitch.)

So let's look forward - the Caps obviously still have some special teams issues that need to be worked out, some of which will likely improve with the return of Ovie, Zubrus and the rest of the gang. Baby steps, guys - let's start with keeping the puck out of our net when we have the power play...just a thought...

Things to watch for in the coming weeks - Klepis has put together some good performances of late, making the battle of the centers a little more interesting down the stretch. Pothier and Clymer seem to be settling in to their roles on the blue line pretty well and the defense just doesn't look as scary as it did last year...Clymer scored the lone Caps goal tonight (albeit late in the third period) and Brian even got a nice little write up in the Post today.

By the way, I love that the Post and the Times have started a profile war - who will get that coveted interview with JF Fortin first?? Stay tuned to find out!


She's Baaaack...

After a brief little hiatus from my obsessive posting streak, I'm back to report all the news that's fit to print (and some that's not). I'm currently listening to the Caps-Devils game and will have more to report once it's over. Anyone just tuning in, it's 2-0 Devils with a little over 7 minutes remaining in the 3rd period...and we just got a penalty. Great.

And another one. Even better - Devils 5-on-3 with Clark and Giroux in the box.

Devils scored.


Not that everyone doesn't love play-by-play via blog
, as I'm sure it's very thrilling, but I'll stop the way, Kolbe should come with a warning label: "People with heart conditions should not listen to this man"

So I'll have more on what will most likely be a thrilling Caps loss later, plus I'll be back to preseason form with a preview of the next tilt against the Broad Street Bullies on Tuesday. In the meantime, indulge in a little Caps' love from the local media:

George Solomon loves Big Don

Heeeeere's Johnny!

Alex Version 2.0

Alex Version 2.0 (Take 2)


Friday, September 22, 2006

Caps Beat Pens in OT, 5-4

This weekend is going to be full of religious activities for me and posts may be fewer and farther in between, so I would like to apologize in advance for all 2 people that read this thing occasionally. Holidays or no holidays, though, I couldn't resist checking in quickly to bask in the joy of a Caps' win over the Penguins!

Sure, it was preseason...and the majority of the regular NHLers were sitting out...and the Caps were shorthanded 13 times, including 2 2-man advantages and a penalty in overtime (yeah, Brashear - not making a great impression so far, buddy)...and allowed a shorthanded goal and 2 power play goals (both by Gonchar). Actually, from all accounts and the "highlights" provided by the enemy's website, this thing was pretty ugly.

Still, you can't rain on my parade. Even a win by what was essentially the Hershey Bears over the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins will give me some joy (which shows just how small my world really is). And it was ugly for the Pens, too - the Caps had 3 power play goals in their own right, going 2-7 in the second period alone. They tied it with 1:13 left in the 3rd and won the game in overtime, in PIttsburgh, in front of 11,000 fans already pissed that Crosby and Malkin were sitting out the home debut. Say it softly, it sounds like singing. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing".


Gameday Preview (Preseason Edition - Take 2)

Who: Your Nation’s Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: Mellon Arena

Pittsburgh, PA
When: Friday, September 22, 2006, 7:30 pm

Media Notes (Slim pickings today):

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Broadcast Information: Radio broadcast available on both team sites; no TV broadcast

2005-2006 Season Series: Washington 1-3-0-0,
Pittsburgh 3-1-0-0

Last Game: 3/8 in DC, Caps won 6-3
- The Caps got their only win (argh...) against the Pens last year in the final game of the series
- Ovechkin finally bested Penguins rookie phenom Sidney Crosby, collecting his 42nd goal and adding two assists for good measure.

- Ivan Majesky scored his first goal of the season on a clearing attempt that took an odd bounce and confused goaltender Sebastian Caron; the puck went right, he moved left, and just like that Ivan was on the scoresheet.
- The game became even stranger with the appearance of an errant pigeon in the first intermission. This highly intelligent creature dodged zambonis and later faced the wrath of both goaltenders' sticks as it continuously landed on either end of the ice...

Things to watch for tonight:
- Tonight's game will be without the three young superstars, as Ovechkin, Crosby, and newcomer Evgeni Malkin will all be watching from the stands
. Ovechkin is nursing what is being described as a very minor injury as a precaution, while Malkin is recovering from a dislocated shoulder from a run-in with fellow Penguin John LeClair on Wednesday night. As for Crosby, Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero doesn't want his little snookums playing 3 games in three days and so he will sit out tonight. The other 29 guys can just suck it up, apparently. Anyways, should be a barn-burner of a game.
- With the absence of Ovechkin, Crosby and Malkin along with the many veterans still nursing injuries on both sides, look for Hanlon and "Tough Love" Therrien to look to some younger players to fill the void.

Projected Lineups: Neither team has released a lineup for tonight's game at this time. According to
Penguins' GM Ray Shero, however, we will apparently get our first look at Staal: the Sequel...because seeing big brother Eric 8 times a year plus once in preseason just isn't enough of the Staal family for us...

Did You Know...?
- Penguins, while graceful and quick in the water, are often awkward on ice and will sometimes travel on their stomachs to increase velocity

- A natural predator of some species of penguins is the sea eagle...hmmm...

A Look Ahead: Washington has tomorrow off and will travel to Hershey for an early evening exhibition showdown with the New Jersey Devils at Giant Center on Sunday.


Pettinger Settling Down

A nice profile on Matt Pettinger...

I'm sure I join all other Caps fans in expecting big things from this guy this season - I love the combination of speed and grit that he brings to the team, something that is really becoming inherent throughout the team but which is perfected in Pettinger. He's willing to slam someone into the boards, then steal the puck and score on a shorthanded breakaway.

I do, however, have to let the puckbunny in me continue to mourn the loss of Matt's single status over the summer...thanks for reminding me, Tarik... :(



...I'm okay, really.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Olie Speaks Up

- The Big Man in Net opened up to the Post's Tarik El-Bashir before the game last night about the Capitals' need to regain "that mentality of hating to lose", his expectations for the season, and the affect that low expectations of the national media will have on the Caps. Ever the diplomat, Olie defends outside perceptions of the Caps ability, but I love that he takes it with a grain of salt. I've heard him mention the Carolina thing a lot lately, too. I think he honestly believes the Caps can challenge for a playoff spot this year and make a serious run at the Cup within the next couple of years. That kind of optimism can only be good for a young team to see from a guy who's seen it all...


And a Good Morning to You, Too...

- Happy-fun-sunshine guy Dave Fay checks in with his recap of last night's game. I love reading his semi-biased columns, but he's so pessimistic most of the time. Oh, well, that's what I'm here for. Kool-Aid anyone?

- Couldn't agree more with new guy Brian Pothier's take on the game:

"The big thing for us is we have to learn how to play with the lead...[w]e need to limit their chances
in the second and third and try to shut them down. We didn't have much success with that tonight."

A full 60 minute game, guys...that's all I ask. Now I'd rather lose the game than play a New Jersey-type game, shutting down the neutral zone and bringing the game to a grinding halt, but there must be a happy medium...

- After watching Hanlon's press conference last night, who here thinks that practice this morning will not be much fun?


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Mixed Beginning

"The penalties were...unacceptable." That was the reaction from a visibly upset Glen Hanlon following tonight's overtime loss to the Lightning, as the Caps preseason officially got underway. An outsider might question why a coach would bother showing emotion over a game that seemingly has little consequence. But Hanlon knows that for a team that could potentially be on the cusp of a playoff spot come April, a strong start is everything. Positive attitudes and results from training camp must carry over into real life scenarios in order for this team to contend for the top 8 in the conference.

Problems -

- Penalties, Penalties, Penalties: Although the Lightning started off the parade to the penalty box at just 18 seconds into the game, the Caps would soon follow as player after player took bad penalties, many in the offensive zone. With both goalies playing fairly well, it became a situation in which the slightest mistake can cost you the game - and that's exactly what happened when the Caps took a penalty in overtime, leading to the game-winner by Dan Boyle.
- Overall Chemistry: Now this is a preseason game, so the linemates are still adjusting to one another and the chemistry will have to be played with. That's the whole point of preseason - to make adjustments, change strategies, and identify your strengths and weaknesses. So I'll forgive the missed passes and the, er...running into one another and whatnot...
Still, it wasn't all doom and gloom tonight...sure, there were defensive lapses, bad passes, far too many penalties, and of course the loss itself. But there were also some bright spots.

So what was good?
- Power Play: The penalty kill may need work, but the power play showed definite signs of promise, as Ovie, Semin, Zednik, Pothier and Clymer danced around the defense and completed crisp pass after crisp pass. They would later capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity (!!!) to take a 2-0 lead in the game.
- Alexander Semin: Expectations have been high for Sasha since he arrived for training camp and there are still some questions as to whether he will come to play every night the way everyone says he can. If tonight is evidence of things to come, I'd say we're about to have 2 Russian superstars battling for the spotlight here in DC. Semin is just so strong on the puck and so patient - he just waits for the perfect opportunity to bury it. Of course, having said that, his goal came on a quick wrist shot off the faceoff, so what do I know...
- The Crowd: No, it wasn't a sellout crowd. It wasn't even close to a regular weekday game crowd, let alone a weekend. In fact, it was announced at 8,351 and probably wasn't even that many. But I was surprised there even was a crowd. Consider this - it was a Wednesday night preseason game when the Nats were at home playing the Braves (albeit in an equally pointless game). While there were a lot of empty purple seats, the upper and lower sections at center ice were actually pretty full and the best part was that people were into it - cheering when Ovie was announced, booing the refs, singing along to the Hockey Song...

There were many other good and bad things about tonight's game, but it is after all a preseason game and every little detail doesn't need to be dissected, at least not by me. The bottom line is that there are certainly improvements to be made before the Caps meet the dreaded Penguins on Friday and especially before the puck drops October 5. But I wouldn't be the full-blooded Caps fan I truly am if I couldn't squint and see the silver lining - trust me, it's there.


The Man Puts His Foot Down...

This just in:

"Verizon Center Policy Update: In an effort to comply with current industry standards and to add to the safety of our patrons, Verizon Center will no longer allow fans and patrons to bring in outside food or beverages. As Verizon Center is in the heart of a bustling downtown area, Verizon Center encourages fans and patrons to visit one of the many restaurant options available prior to attending an event. During an event, fans and patrons are encouraged to visit one of the concession stands offering a variety of food options."

You heard it here, kids - if you want to add liquor to your soda or chuck your sandwich at the referee (10 points if you crack the hairspray on Kerry Fraser's head), you now have to pay twice as much for the privilege. Of course, if they're really going to use the safety excuse, they may want to make the burgers at the arena a little less puck-like. Those things could pack a wollop if "accidentally" thrown by even my girly arm at say, a Penguins fan or something.

Thanks for the great journalistic work by our reporter in the field (aka my way of the Caps' message boards...from


Game Day Preview (Preseason Edition)

Who: Your Nation’s Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: Verizon Center
601 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
When: Wednesday, September 20, 2006, 7:00 pm

Media Notes: Gameday Preview
St. Petersburg Times
Tampa Bay Tribune Gameday Preview
Washington Post
Washington Times

Broadcast Information: Radio broadcast available on both team sites; no TV broadcast

2005-2006 Season Series: Washington 4-3-0-1, Tampa Bay 4-4-0-0

Last Game: 4/18 at Tampa Bay, Caps won 4-1
- TB Coach John Tortorella unveiled his genius plan to use both goalies in the season finale as a means of deciding which would be his #1 in the playoffs. The plan backfired as both goalies allowed 2 goals on low shot counts (Grahame, 14 saves on 16 shots; Burke, 10 saves on 12 shots).
- Brent Johnson closed out the season strong for the Caps, stopping 42 of 43 shots.
- Jeff Halpern posted 2 goals in the game, including a power play goal to open the scoring. This goal also featured an assist by Alex Ovechkin, his 106th and final point of the season.
- Famous last words: Tortorella commented after the loss that “[w]e’re getting ready for the playoffs...I’m not going to get too involved in this game.” Of course, a win would have moved Tampa Bay ahead of Montreal to clinch 7th place and a date with the Carolina Hurricanes; instead they drew 1st seed Ottawa and were soon ejected from the playoffs...

Things to watch for tonight:
- While the Bolts still have a number of unknowns on the roster for this first preseason tilt, the Caps appear to be playing with a roster that more closely resembles that of opening night. I would expect the majority of the changes made between now and then to be veterans returning from surgery (Zubrus, Clark, etc.). That’s right, fans – for once the Capitals will be the more experienced team on the ice!
- Look for Hanlon to shift the line combinations around throughout the game. We’ve got some interesting groups out there (does anyone else find the combo of Semin and Brashear as entertaining as I do?) but in all likelihood they are merely chemistry experiments.
- Ben Clymer will make his preseason debut on the back line for Hanlon’s Caps as all eyes will be on him to see if he can cut it as a top four d-man. Schultz will probably have to put together a spectacular showing to even be considered for a semi-permanent roster spot, but as a potential future blue liner for the Caps it’ll be fun to see how he does.

- Tampa Bay continues their game of “Wheel O’ Goaltenders” with their latest installment, newly-acquired netminder Marc Denis. Denis comes in with a lot of expectations and will probably need to meet or surpass them if the Lightning don’t want to be hitting the links in April.

In homage to my fellow Caps nuts on the message boards, I now present my pitiful attempt at...

Projected Lineup for the Caps
8 – Alex “the Gr8” Ovechkin, 16 – Brian “K.O.” Sutherby, 20 – Richard “No More Zed Head” Zednik
43 - Tomas “Like Butter” Fleischmann, 24 – Kris “Life’s a” Beech, 18 – Matt “Don’t Call Me Princess” Pettinger
28 – Alex “Missing Link” Semin, 21 – Brooks “What’s Not to” Laich, 87 – Donald “Lamborghini Man” Brashear
10 – Matt “The Peacemaker” Bradley, 22 – Rico “Suave” Fata, 14 – Eric “Who Says Life Isn’t” Fehr
2 – Brian “DC > Ottawa” Pothier, 26 – Shaone “Rising Star” Morrisonn
27 – Ben “The DC Diva” Clymer, 44 – Steve “I Heart NY” Eminger
52 – Mike “Babyface” Green, 55 – Jeff “Godzilla Jr” Schultz
In Goal:
Olie “The Captain” Kolzig
I’m welcome to suggestions for new nicknames – some of these are bad, I know!

Projected Lineup for the Boltheads
Sorry, no nicknames for opposition teams – they don’t deserve the respect!
(And I’m not that creative...)
4 - Vincent Lecavalier, 20 - Vaclav Prospal, 65 - Marek Kvapil
24 - Andreas Karlsson, 15 - Nikita Alexeev, 34 - Ryan Craig
9 - Eric Perrin, 14 - Norm Milley, 18 - Rob DiMaio
49 - Blair Jones, 36 - Mitch Fritz, 42 - Eric Healey
71 - Filip Kuba, 22 - Dan Boyle
3 - Doug Janik, 5 - Andy Delmore
37 - Matt Smaby, 44 - Nolan Pratt
In Goal:
30 - Marc Denis
PLAY BALL! Er, I mean, LET'S GO CAPS!!! :) Sorry, baseball season is just too damn long...


Hanlon the Mad Scientist

Preseason games generally don't mean a thing and tend to be slightly less entertaining than regular season, but this year it looks like we will have some interesting things to watch. The usual suspects will likely be back this year with a few additions sprinkled throughout, so the coaching staff will instead use this time to test out some new approaches, lines and strategies. Some things to look for:

- Ben Clymer on defense - Hanlon's experimental placement of the gritty winger in his original d-man role will finally play out Wednesday night at the Phone Booth. Both the coaching staff and Clymer seem to be optimistic about the move, which is always a good sign. I like the fact that Hanlon will only move him back to the blue line permanently if he can challenge for a top four role - no sense in limiting Clymer's ice time and taking a roster spot from a young defenseman if he's really more suited to playing up front. I have to say, as much as I loved the CBS line, I'm excited to see how Ben will adjust to this new role.

- New power play configurations - Will the high firepower line of Zubie, Semin, Zednik, Ovechkin and Pothier produce, or will we be subjected to another stretch of games that were lost by special teams alone? I'll say one thing for this combo - it certainly won't be boring to watch...don't think for a minute that the second unit will be a snooze-fest, either.

- The Center Saga - Expect to see Kris Beech getting a good look against the Bolts. All reports point to increased confidence in his evolution towards becoming a true NHLer, but only experience in an actual NHL setting will confirm or disprove that confidence. He will have Sutherby and Laich biting at his heels, both of whom are capable centers in their own right. Sutherby is coming into the game fresh off the heels of his "feistiness" (a little kerfuffle with young'un Chad Wiseman during a scrimmage). It's good to see that kind of passion and energy in camp - let's hope it carries over on to the main stage.

That's it for today - stay tuned as I attempt my first pre-game coverage, all leading up to that much awaited puck drop tomorrow night. Caps strike the Lightning, 7 pm Verizon Center - hope to see you there!


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

TV Schedule

- The Caps' broadcast schedule has (finally) been released - Comcast SportsNet will again cover the majority of the games, with additional broadcasts being shown on the CW and Newschannel 8.

Now would be a fitting time to complain about the lack of nationally-televised games granted to the Caps this year, but I will refrain and let the numbers do the talking. Conventional wisdom suggests that more games would go to those that performed well last year. Sounds reasonable, right? Let's see how the bottom tier of the league shapes up this year: Number of games on Versus/NBC for the Blues? 5. The Blackhawks? 8. The big bad Pens? 11.

Now let's see how many the Caps have...3. And oh, yeah, two of those games are guessed it, the Penguins! But really, the NHL doesn't play favorites at all.

- Be sure to check out a nice piece on underrated young defenseman Shaone Morrisonn by Caps' beat writer Mike Vogel. Olie continues to praise Morrisonn in every interview - that alone speaks volumes about his development over the last year. Such a great addition and a definite improvement over what was given up in my opinion...Gonchar? Gonchar who?


Beavis and Bullethead

I've said it before that I'm not really a fan of Elliot in the Morning on DC101 and haven't been since high school. While I'd like to think that my humor has matured a little since then, the show has remained essentially the same and is now too harsh for my old ears so early in the morning. Yet every time I see that a member of the Capitals organization will be on his show, I dig up my old portable radio, plug in my headphones, and wait out the fart jokes and misogynistic remarks in eager anticipation of things to come.

It's not just my incessant need to surround myself with anything related to the Caps - Elliot is a true fan of the team and hockey in general, a fact which comes through in his interviewing. Players are more relaxed on his show; they know him and have fun talking to him because he knows what he's talking about. Zednik called in all the way from Slovakia after he was traded to the Caps, a true testament of how much the players appreciate his efforts. Today was no different - Olie Kolzig showed up in the studio for what would turn out to be a highly entertaining 30-minute interview, something you rarely hear with anyone during the morning commute, let alone a hockey player.

During this blissful half-hour, they covered anything that casual and rabid fans alike would want to know - do the guys get jealous or upset at the attention focused on Ovie (no, because he deserves it and brings attention to all of them, and he's always a team player first...ahem, are you listening Mr. Jagr?), do you like training camp (it's a necessary evil but would prefer to start the season right away), do you ever put alcohol in your water bottle during games (NO!), that kind of thing.

There weren't any bombshells dropped, no major news to report (although I did learn that Elliot is originally from Montreal - who knew?), nothing that would set the Caps message boards blazing. It was just a fun conversation to listen to from beginning to end that reenforced everything I love about Kolzig and reminded me why I bother to turn on EITM at all.

- Not Caps-related, but I thought I should mention the end of an era - Ye Olde Bullethead, also known as Tie Domi, has announced that he is retiring from the NHL after 16 seasons. As much as I loved to hate him, Domi was always entertaining and could be counted on for some interesting highlight clips, whether he was throwing water on a fan or somehow putting the puck in the net. I wish him good luck in his future pursuits - might I suggest a job in customer service?


Monday, September 18, 2006

Turning the Power Back On

Good news from training camp today - Hanlon has put together what he believes will be a productive and skilled power play unit, with Ovie, Zednik, and Semin up front and Zubrus and Pothier on the blueline. Wow. That's some serious firepower, with guys that are not only able to shoot the puck but also muscle through a shorthanded defense - I love it.

For an encore? The second power play unit consisting of Beech, Pettinger, Clark, Clymer and Green - a little grittier, but Clark and Pettinger are great at mucking it up in front of the net, Beech appears to be developing his playmaking skills, and Clymer and Green both have good strong shots from the point. The insertion of Beech on this line seems to be a pretty good sign that he will be sticking around, at least for the time being - way to go, Kris!

Overall these units sound pretty strong to me. To be fair, though, I'm pretty easy to please after last season. Hell, I'll settle for the occasional goal on a 2-man advantage, let alone a 5-on-4. Time and time again I watched them fail to capitalize on the other teams mistakes. And spare me the lip service that 5-on-3 goals are often harder to get. Are they 100% guaranteed goals? Obviously not, but the fact remains that you have two more players on the ice than the other team and that has to come with certain advantages. I'm just sayin'.

I am optimistic, though - these power-play units already seem much more intimidating on paper than the real thing looked on ice all last season, so that's something. We'll know for sure on Wednesday when the Bolts come to town - Tortorella's club traditionally is more disciplined than most but it is still the new NHL (can I still call it that?) and the power play will definitely be a factor.


Real Hockey Players Have Curves

- The NHL has increased the maximum stick curve allowed from a half inch to three-quarters of an inch, a move which is likely to have a positive impact on European goal-scorers like our very own Alex Ovechkin.

You may be saying to yourself, what's the big idea with a measly quarter inch? Here's what Tarik El-Bashir says this increase will do: "Increased curve allows Ovechkin to put more velocity on his already hard shot, launch the puck higher from close range, and control it better in traffic."

Now let's take a look at what this kid was able to do with an "inferior" stick blade:

Enough said.

Do you hear that sound? That's the sound of 29 goalies hiding under their beds...

- Can I just say how much I love the fact that there were 750 people out at Ashburn to watch day 2 of training camp? (Dave Fay says 500, but I like this number better) I knew it was crowded; we tried to watch the scrimmage and couldn't even get into the ice area, forced instead to watch sadly from a window. Still, I had no idea the number was that high.

Think about it - there's nothing in Ashburn yet; it's a developing suburban area with lots of open spaces. These people, myself included, had to trek out there early on a Sunday morning for the sole purpose of watching the current and future Caps practice for a little over 2 hours. Don't tell me hockey interest doesn't exist in the DC-area.

Now if only every person in attendance yesterday would bring 20 friends to the next Caps' game, we'd be all set...


Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Morning with the Caps

Training Camp - Day 2!!

When I have the option, there are very few things I would choose to do on a
Sunday morning that would involve getting up early. One of those things is attending my very first Capitals training camp, so I dragged my ass out of bed at 8:00 this morning and ventured beyond the borders of DC to watch training camp out in Ashburn. I have to say, as much as I love to sleep in this was much better!

The morning session had the team divided into two groups to do skating, passing and shooting drills. Unfortunately we didn't know that both groups were skating at the same time, so we missed seeing Ovie, Clymer, and the other favorites...who knew that Ashburn Ice House had two sheets of ice?? Apparently every other Caps fan in the building - the stands on our side had some spectators, but nothing compared to the standing-room only crowd that filled the other session.

The session we watched contained a lot of the younger guys including Bourque, Schultz, Fehr, and Beech, with some veterans like Pettinger, Heward, and newcomers Brashear and Zednik sprinkled in. It was actually pretty fun to watch - I enjoyed
getting a look at some of the young guys that will likely be in a Caps uniform over the next few years. The only bad part was trying to figure out who they were by the numbers on their helmets - I was a bad Caps fan and forgot to bring a copy of the roster...I don't recommend it.

Luckily we figured out that there was another rink in time to watch the tail end of an intersquad game after the drill sessions were done, which gave us a brief look at the rest of the team. It was very exciting to watch despite the fact that the standing-room only crowd forced us to watch through a window above the ice. Hanlon kept the game moving very fast with lots of quick changes, and penalties were served by making all five players on the offenders' team do board-to-board sprints, which made everyone giggle. There was one scary moment when Sutherby and Muir collided behind the net - Sutherby was slow to get up and was limping a little on his way back to the bench, but he was back out later and appears to be fine. Final score - no clue, but apparently the black jerseys won. Yay!

Overall impressions:
- Kris Beech played really well, making some nice passes and either scoring or assisting on a goal for his team during the game (I was on the other end of the ice and unfortunately couldn't see). I think he may have a shot at cracking the lineup if he can maintain the energy he had going today.
- Chris Bourque is very fast, with a nice wrist shot...he's also tiny, and his practice jersey looked more like a teal nightgown on him. I think he may need another year or two in Hershey before he's ready, and he may need to add some more bulk, but I'd like to see him up with the Caps a little more this year. He's definitely hungry.
- Donald Brashear is huge. I mean, enormous. He is also, however, a pretty decent skater both forwards and backwards. He doesn't seem to be afraid to stand in front of the net and get the messy goals, which is good because once he's there no one is going to move him.
- Matt Pettinger was literally flying out there, both in drills and the game. I forgot how fast he is and it
really hits when you see it up close. He appears to be ready to go after the long summer - expect to see him surpass his career numbers from last season if he keeps going like this.
- Alexander Semin is here, ladies and gentlemen. I saw him with my own eyes, on the ice, skating and passing (not really talking, I'm not sure if he's worked at his English at all...maybe Ovie can teach him). He's funny in front of the net - he has tremendous patience with the puck and just waits for the goalie to make a mistake, then buries the puck. I don't know if he'll get to do that once there are actually people playing defense, but it was fun to watch nonetheless.
- Mike Green - I love this kid. He can shoot the puck really well and is quick, although I didn't really see him in any defensive situations. Judging by his performance in NHL games last year and his numbers from the AHL playoffs, I think he'll soon be a top four defenseman.
- Alex Ovechkin - the birthday boy looked a little rusty after a summer of minimal skating, but he was still making some decent passes and skating pretty well. I have no doubt that he'll be better than ever when the puck drops October 5. He was probably saving his energy for what will probably be an all-night bar crawl tonight in honor of his 21st birthday...the guys honored this momentous occasion with, you guessed it, a pie in the face. Which reminds me - Happy Birthday, Ovie!

The best part of the day, aside from just being there to see my first training camp, was how accessible the players were to the fans. Several players came out in between the drills and the game to sign autographs, then were nice enough to do it again after leaving the weight room in the afternoon. At one point I was sitting about 10 feet away from Joe Reekie and he later walked up the bleachers right next to me, and Jamie Heward passed me in the hallway on his way out of the weight room. Of course, being the brave soul that I am, I let both of them walk by without saying a word and just stared in awe (which probably freaked both of them out...) but it was thrilling nonetheless.

All in all it was a really interesting experience. You could definitely feel the intensity among the young guys - they rarely cracked a smile in between drills and played hard in the scrimmage, hitting guys along the boards and skating hard. It's easy to forget that they are fighting for jobs, whereas veteran guys that are definitely on the team can be a little more relaxed and just focus on their own game. I didn't get as good a look at all of them as I would have liked, but I'll be there Wednesday night for the preseason opener!


Saturday, September 16, 2006

New Look for Beech, Clymer; News from ChocolateTown

- Kris Beech is likely getting his last look at this training camp to determine whether he has the ability to become a full-time NHLer or a permanent addition to the AHL's Hershey Bears roster, according to the Post's Tarik El-Bashir.

I'm kind of on the fence about Beech at this point, as are a lot of people. The few times I saw him up with the Caps towards the end of last season he was good but not a standout - he has good speed, is willing to hit people (although those people don't always fall down) and has a decent shot. My question with Beech is consistency; too often he would make a good play and would follow that by coughing up the puck or missing the net. Of course, that's something that unfortunately seemed to happen a lot among all the Caps last year, so not necessarily a strike against him personally...

I'm definitely rooting for Kris - he has the tenacity and the raw talent that seems to be running rampant among the young guys in the ranks, and I hated that we traded him away back in 2001. He put together a spectacular postseason with the Bears but he'll absolutely have some things to prove with the big boys, esecially since he has some pretty tough competition. Brooks Laich turned a temporary stint with the Caps into a permanent position (and quickly became one of my favorite players) and Brian Sutherby is coming off a career season and seems hungry for a larger role.

I'm not sure that I agree with Tarik that Beech is the first choice to center the second line ahead of these two more experienced centers, but I also haven't gotten as good a look at Beech as I'd like to really make up my mind. I'll have to see what I think at training camp and in his preseason appearances.

- Dave Fay takes a closer look at Ben Clymer's shift to the Caps' blue line in today's Times. This story, broken a few weeks ago on the Caps Report, is interesting to me because you so rarely see it happen that a player will switch positions so significantly. Usually you hear about the switch from left to right wing or vice versa (an idea that many had for this season should the Clymer experiment not work creating a surplus of wingers). Offense to defense is a horse of a different color, but if anyone is able to do it smoothly it would be Clymer. He's tough and a fairly quick skater, with a wicked shot from the point that seemed particularly effective on the power play at the end of last year.

It looks like Ben will be taking it all in stride as seems to be his way - before this was announced, he had gone on the Caps Report and pretty much said he didn't want to switch back to D, but he now seems excited about the prospect of returning to the position in which he was drafted. I liked his comment when asked if it was a permanent change, replying that
"[f]or now, it's permanently experimental." Very noncomittal, well done, Ben - they'll make a professional athlete out of you yet!

- Vogel's article on Clymer from - a little more in depth and, as would be expected, more direct input from Clymer and his teammates.

- Is is just me or are the future Capitals going to be flush with both talent and toughness? It would be nice, since before last season that mix seemed to be skewed with more of one than the other (and sometime with neither). We've seen features on our flashy snipers and playmakers, but here's an interesting look at two future, ahem, Lady Byng candidates coming to terms with their pugilistic past as they become united in a common cause: Play Nice, Boys

- I love that our new affiliation with the Calder Cup-Champion Hershey Bears forces Pittsburgh-area papers to write about the sunny future of the Caps...does that make me a bad person? Here's some news from around Hershey as the youngsters get a shot at the big time:
Lebanon Daily News
The Patriot-News


Friday, September 15, 2006

Burnside LOVES the Caps!

I'm not really sure why I do this to myself everytime, but this evening I felt the need to check out's NHL "coverage". And there he was - our best buddy, Scott Burnside, with his Eastern Conference preview. I started reading despite the little voice in my head screaming at me not to do it, knowing it would only make me angry. The hopeless optimist in me (the entire reason I'm a Caps fan in the first place) silenced it and made me read on. It started out well:

"We spent a lot of time beating up on the Capitals before the start of last season, and we're honestly very sorry about that."

. That's awfully nice, Scott, thanks! But then, of course, he kept going:

"And it would have been nice had owner Ted Leonsis given GM George McPhee something to work with this season because this Caps team is one of the hardest-working teams in the NHL. But sadly, the immediate future looks as bleak as it did a season ago."

Did you catch the compliment hidden in there? Blink and you'll miss it. Anyway, I think George made some smart moves in the offseason. Maybe not big, flashy signings but signings that will fit into what we already had. Could we still pick up some guys? Sure - season hasn't started yet, right?

But why let logic get in the way...and so we continue:

"There's Alexander Ovechkin, who scored 49 more points than the second-leading scorer on the team, and netminder Olaf Kolzig, who curiously re-signed with the Caps instead of becoming a free agent. And that's pretty much it. Alexander Semin will join the Caps after essentially being AWOL the past two seasons. But coach Glen Hanlon still has fewer tools to work with than any other coach in the NHL."

Um...yeah. No comment.

The big finish - come on, Scott, be a good pundit and ask those questions that aren't really questions:

"Questions: Can the enigmatic Semin make an impact? Is there a drop-off for effervescent Ovechkin in his sophomore year? Will anyone bother to show up at the MCI Center to see the game's brightest young star knowing the team has no hope of making the playoffs?"

GOAL! Yahtzee! Game Over! Well, there you have it, folks - translated loosely, no one on the Caps can skate or score, Olie is senile for being loyal, Semin is unproven and untrustworthy, Ovie can't possibly top his production of last year, and Verizon Center (yes, Scott, way to do your research - it's Verizon Center now) will be filled with the sound of crickets chirping.

Good thing he doesn't let the fact that we have those pesky 82 games to play get in the way before writing off the entire season...we're lucky to have him around.

There really are just too many negative things out there about the Caps, so I'm going to have to stop ripping them apart each time - there's just not enough room here to do it. Bottom line - we're going to surprise a lot of people this year and in years to come, so the "experts" can say whatever they want to. We just won't invite them to our parade when the Caps eventually win the Stanley Cup.


Caps in Print

Two takes from the local print media on the start of preseason:

- Washington Post
- Washington Times

They're pretty similar, both doing your basic wrap-up of last year followed by a look at the offseason changes and ending with some questions that remain unanswered as preseason gets underway. Compare and contrast as your heart desires...

There's also a nice piece on Heward from - the journeyman seems to like it here, and I, for one, hope he sticks around a little longer.


Oh What a Beautiful Morning!

Training camp is officially underway! And here I am, at work; another day, another 10 cents.

I did catch a little of Elliott in the Morning on my way in today - someone mentioned that training camp was starting and he got really excited, saying he couldn't wait then bursting into a rendition of C-A-P-S CAPS CAPS CAPS! I also caught the tail-end of a phone interview with Sutherby - nothing really new, just good to hear Sudsy's voice. You know, I may not like EITM that much, but he's been good to the Caps over the years and you have to love someone with that much enthusiasm for the game. The guys seem to love talking to him, too. Of course, he's also a crazy Skins fan, but no one's perfect...

Check out yet another great article by Caps' writer Mike Vogel - it's a great summary of what the Caps are expecting for this upcoming season and what fans can look forward to.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Caps Sign Erskine

Wow, three posts in one evening - hence the very original title of this post...

The Washington Capitals have signed free-agent John Erskine according to I'll be honest, I don't really know that much about him yet - I'll be out at Ashburn on Sunday, so I'll definitely have to check him out. I do know that any addition to our blue line, particularly young defensemen with some NHL experience, can't be bad.

Looking at his numbers he seems to be a pretty hard-nosed, stay-at-home type of guy - lots of PIMs (not always a bad thing - some of our favorites had monogrammed towels in the penalty box...Hunter, Berube, Simon). All in all, seems like a good pick-up. I would still like to see one more veteran d-man come to our nation's capital, but I'll trust that McPhee knows what he's doing and like everyone else, wait to see what happens next.


Ouch, Baby...Very Ouch

I know I'm over-sensitive about this, but would it be so hard for the media to cut the Caps some slack? They don't have to sugar-coat everything, but it's not like we were as bad as, say, the Penguins! Speaking of which, those dirty birds are getting a lot more respect than they deserve - what did they do in the offseason to improve, other than reacquire recent Hurricane and aging veteran Mark Recchi (because he was so useful the first time around)?

Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore Ovie and this complaint has nothing to do with him, nor do I intend to take away from what he accomplished last season because it was incredible. It just gets under my skin when I read things like this:

"Last year, Ovechkin was one of the few reasons to watch the Capitals, who languished, as expected, at the bottom of the Southeast Division in a rebuilding year."

Yes, Ovie was brilliant, but I watched almost the entire season and they were entertaining even when Ovechkin was on the bench. It just seems like an unnecessary comment to make - no, they didn't win the division or make the playoffs, or even finish in the top two-thirds of the league. I'm not saying they should be covered with the same amount of reverence given to consistent performers like Detroit. All I'm asking for is that they cover the Caps without editorializing all the time.

Add this to the recent discovery that The Hockey News is once again predicting the Caps will finish dead last in the entire league and it starts to feel like a conspiracy. Yes, I know, I should have a thicker skin about this - didn't THN say the Caps would be lucky to win more than 8 games last year? And weren't they the ones who predicted Carolina wouldn't make the playoffs? I definitely take it with a grain of salt, but I know other people won't and some of those people may have bought tickets to see a Caps game.

I get overly defensive of my boys and I know it, but I would just like them to get a little respect and that's all I'm saying - rant complete.